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SOTU Awards: Most Improved Player — STRIKER Romeo Finley

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The junior defensive back elevated his game in 2018, making an impact all over the field.

State of the U Illustration by Mike Meredith

The Canes defense was one of the best units in the nation because of their ability to pull down ballcarriers behind the line of scrimmage, force turnovers, and play disciplined football. While there are plenty of players that represent that philosophy on this defense like Jaquan Johnson, Shaquille Quarterman and Michael Pinckney, one player truly transformed himself to be a flagbearer of Manny Diaz’s defense: Romeo Finley.

NCAA Football: Florida International at Miami
Romeo Finley was one of the Canes’ best tacklers in 2018.
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

After collecting 7 tackles in each of his first two seasons, Finley used a strong summer session to carve out a larger role for himself in 2018. After being named the starting striker, the junior out of Fort Walton Beach became a impact play-machine. His 2018 season totals were 28 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 2 interceptions, 4 pass break-ups and a forced fumble. #30 could be seen flying across the field to break up a screen, track down a running back in the flat, disrupt a pass over the middle or to blitz the quarterback. The striker position requires a player with a unique set of abilities, and as you can see in the highlight video below, Finley impacted games in a variety of ways. Luckily for the Canes, Romeo has another year in Coral Gables, and we can only hope our Most Improved Player can continue to ascend as top playmaker for the Miami defense.